“charming handbag”

I’ve been down in Manchester for a few days, where I found much food for thought among the textiles at the Whitworth Gallery (of which more later). But I spent yesterday afternoon with a lovely piece of fabric of my own:

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I just adore those branches and butterflies. It is a furnishing remnant from John Lewis, and is satisfyingly sturdy. Ideal for the birthday gift I had in mind:

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The “charming handbag” from Amy Karol’s great new book, Bend the Rules Sewing.

I lined the bag with pale blue polka dots:

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and finished it off with a couple of buttons:

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Very pleasing indeed.

I enjoy Amy Karol’s blogs and websites, and was looking forward to her book. I wasn’t disappointed – all the projects are extremely classy and simple, emphasising the natural aesthetics of fabric as well as ease of production. There is nothing stupidly fiddly here. For someone who (like me) is not the most confident machine sewer, her straightforward instructions are ideal. But I’m sure the projects would appeal to more experienced sewers as well, mainly because of Karol’s real feeling for design. Also, the projects are not merely written as pattern instructions to be followed to the letter, but as starting points for one’s own creative preferences. This is a book which enables you to enjoy — and make sense of — the sewing process, rather than just turn out discrete items. There are some neat tricks here too. I am particularly impressed with the transformative effects of constant pressing, which speeds and neatens things up immensely. No one ever told me that the IRON is almost as important as the machine when sewing, and I now feel rather stupid for not realising it before. Anyway, having sucessfully completed Karol’s handbag, I feel released from the ludicrous dictates of the school sewing class, where everything must be fanatically pinned, basted and zigzagged before one even begins to *think* about sewing. That kind of teaching really does produce a weird combination of guilt and horror — one is never able to do things correctly or carefully enough, and that inability to attain sewing perfection makes one afraid of the process itself. Well, it gave me the fear anyway. But now I shall throw away my pins — or perhaps stick ’em in a home-sewn effigy of my ancient pedagogue — and abandon myself to the wonders of the steam iron. Huzzah.